CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – Lulubelle Marty, a sophomore at Lycee Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer, France, had been in New York just over 12 hours before gathering for breakfast in John Jay High School’s cafeteria with the other 23 exchange students, their American counterparts, and teachers from both schools. She was having bagels with Jessica Brandt, a junior at John Jay and her “American sister” for the next two weeks.

“I’m looking forward to doing things I haven’t done before,” Marty said.

Brandt, a student in 4 Honors French, speaks French with ease. Her family does not—meaning there would be a lot of English in store for Marty—a situation with which she seemed very comfortable. Everyone in her school is required English. She also takes Spanish.

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This is the 38th year that students from Katonah-Lewisboro School District have participated in a French exchange. The program began as a junior high exchange with a school in Grenoble, France. It is now a biennial event in which 24 students from the Lycée Auguste Renoir, a French high school in Cagnes-sur-Mer—a French Riviera town between Nice and Canne—travel to New York and stay with students at John Jay High School for two weeks.

French students will experience small-town life as well as big city highlights. They’ll shadow their John Jay counterparts, visit the village of Katonah and John Jay Homestead, and attend “Guys and Dolls,” the high school musical. Together, the two groups will visit the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and more, as well as rent row boats in Central Park and take the Roosevelt Island tram.

John Jay’s students will travel to the south of France in June and stay with the families of the exchange students they hosted. While school is not in session when they go, they will also have a full itinerary.

“I’m looking forward to improving my French—and going to the beach,” said Alex Hooper, a ninth grader at John Jay High School. He will stay at the home of his exchange partner, Pierre Varin.

Teachers also have an opportunity for cultural exchange. Science teacher Ann Marie Lipinsky is hosting two teachers from Lycée Auguste Renoir and French teacher Henriette Kutscher is hosting the head chaperone and her daughter. She will also travel with the students in June.

“Those who have participated in the program previously have formed lifelong friendships,” said Jacques E. Boubli, one of John Jay’s host families and a key organizer of the program. “A cultural exchange program like this opens people’s eyes and breaks down walls that would otherwise separate and isolate us. Previous participants have described the experience as life-changing.”

“This is truly a wonderful opportunity for all students to broaden their perceptions and appreciation of life in a different country,” said Henriette Kutscher.

This article was provided by Katonah-Lewisboro Schools.